Archive for September, 2012

Democrats Continue To Outpace Republicans In Voter Registration, Gain 100,000 Edge In Clark County

By Sean Whaley | 12:38 pm September 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democrats continue to out-register their Republican counterparts, with the latest data from Clark County now showing a more than 100,000 voter advantage as the deadline to participate in the Nov. 6 general election draws ever closer.

Today just before noon the Clark County website, which updates registration totals regularly, showed 346,703 Democrats registered to vote compared to 246,479 for Republicans, a 100,224 advantage.

Nonpartisans totaled 132,529 and other minor parties totaled 41,910 for a total registered population of 767,621 in Clark County.

Early voting will begin in just a little more than a month.

The consistent outpacing of Democrats over Republicans in the voter registration race could spell trouble for the GOP from the presidential race on down to state legislative races.

In addition to the presidential contest between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, an important Senate race pitting U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is at stake.

And Republicans in the state Senate are engaged in a concerted effort to win control of the 21-member house in November. Democrats now hold an 11-10 edge.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said Democrats are doing well in the registration race because the message of the party on improving education and creating jobs is resonating with voters.

“We thought the economy was going to be the No. 1 thing, but education is and so, I think the message – better educating our children, trying to diversify our economy in different sectors, trying to do things that bring job here – I think those are all messages that are resounding with folks and they’re choosing to register Democrat,” he said.

Denis said Democrats in Nevada have a history of strong turnout for elections, which will also aid the party and its candidates. While nonpartisans will be a big factor in the races, many of those voters are expected to vote Democratic as well, he said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said Republicans have the edge despite the registration difference.

“Well look, obviously we don’t want to see the numbers getting more divergent than they are in some of these races, and it’s unfortunate, but the reality remains that these are very winnable races for us,” he said. “We have a superior candidate, we have a superior organization, we have superior funding. So in that way, we still feel confident in each and every one of these districts that we’re fielding the better future state senator. So in that way I believe that we’re going to win every one of them.”

Contrary to Denis’ view, Kieckhefer said he believes nonpartisan voters are going to break Republican in the election.

Republican Senate candidates “are right on the messages, they are right on the issues,” he said.

“They have the position that is more in line with the majority of voters in their district,” Kieckhefer said.

The deadline to register to vote in the election is Oct. 16. The last day to register without appearing in person at an Election Department office is Oct. 6.

“I encourage everyone to visit our website to make sure they are registered to vote or to ensure their registration information is current,” Clark County Registrar of Voters Harvard Lomax said in a recent news release. “Individuals with a Nevada driver’s license will be able to take advantage of our online registration services and there is still time to register through the mail.”

Early voting for the election begins on Saturday, Oct. 20 and extends through Friday, Nov. 2.

A check of the Clark County website at noon each day for the past few days shows Democrats continue to consistently out-register Republicans.

On Thursday, the site showed 342,293 registered Democrats, 244,963 registered Republicans and 130,789 nonpartisans.

On Friday, Democrats had added 1,196 registered voters in Clark County from Thursday, Republicans added 322 voters, and nonpartisans increased by 478.

On Saturday, Democrats had added 287 voters from Friday, Republicans added 104 voters and nonpartisans rose by 98. The numbers were not updated on Sunday.

On Monday at noon, the Clark County site showed Democrats had added 1,970 voters from the weekend report, Republicans had added 610 voters, and nonpartisans increased by 674 voters.

On Tuesday at noon, the site showed Democrats had added 1,024 voters, Republicans had added 509 voters and nonpartisans increased by 520 voters.

In 2010, at the close of registration, Democrats only held a 91,633 advantage in Clark County. In 2008, at the close of registration, Democrats held a 125,218 advantage in Clark County.

Democrats have been outpacing Republicans in the statewide numbers reported monthly by the Secretary of State’s Office as well. Even nonpartisan registrations have exceeded Republican registrations in recent months.

As of the end of August, there were 463,229 Democrats registered statewide, 407,513 Republicans and 186,941 nonpartisans. The Democratic advantage stood at 55,716.

As of Saturday, Democrats had 471,585 registered voters statewide and Republicans had 411,525, giving Democrats a 60,060 edge, up by 4,344 voters since the end of August.

The push to control the state Senate is one of the bigger Nevada election stories this year. There are five seats considered competitive, and Republicans need to win four of them to take an 11-10 edge.

But Democrats keep making headway in the four Southern Nevada districts. As of last week, Democrats had a 4 percent edge over Republicans in Senate seat 5, 5.1 percent in seat 6, 6.1 percent in seat 9, and trailed Republicans by 2 percent in seat 18.

Seats 5, 6 and 9 now have larger Democratic edges than even in 2008.

In another closely watched contest, the race for the 4th Congressional District seat between state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Republican Danny Tarkanian, Democrats now have an 11 percent edge, or 30,000 more voters, than Republicans.

“This is only the latest sign that Nevadans are rejecting Mitt Romney and Dean Heller’s plan to outsource jobs and end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies,” said Zach Hudson, spokesman for the Nevada State Democratic Party. “Nevadans across the state are excited about re-electing President Obama and sending Shelley Berkley to the Senate to create jobs, protect Medicare, and strengthen the middle class.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says the Democratic Party message is resonating with potential voters:

091812Denis1 :24 to register Democrat.”

Denis says Republicans have disenfranchised voters, which is why many are registering as nonpartisan:

091812Denis2 :16 as a Republican.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he believes Senate Republicans are still favored to win because they are the better candidates and are better funded:

091812Kieckhefer :23 one of them.”

 

 

Board Recommends $100 Million Capital Construction Plan, Now State Has To Find Funding

By Sean Whaley | 11:27 am September 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A state panel today recommended a $100 million capital construction plan to Gov. Brian Sandoval for the next two years, but finding funding for the many desperately needed maintenance projects is still a work in progress.

Sandoval will review the list and potentially make some revisions before submitting it to the 2013 Legislature as part of his overall budget.

Of the total construction budget, about $80 million will require some form of state funding.

The state Public Works Board approved the list of 83 projects, most of which are maintenance and health and safety related, from asbestos removal at the Henderson Armory to boiler improvements at Lake’s Crossing Center for the Mentally Disordered Offender in Sparks.

But Jeff Mohlenkamp, state budget director and member of the board, said he is still researching funding alternatives to pay for the projects. Property tax revenue that has typically been used to pay for such projects in the past is not expected to generate enough funding because of Nevada’s economic difficulties.

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Mohlenkamp said he is still reviewing possible alternative funding options.

“We’re hoping to be able to come up with close to the amount being requested, but that’s not a done deal yet,” he said.

“I’m not sure that we’ll be able to come up with the full $80 million at this point,” Mohlenkamp said. “That’s something that I will be researching and going forward working with the governor’s office on. But certainly we’re going to try. The vast majority of these projects are really critical infrastructure projects and we’re going to try to fund as many as possible,”

The capital construction program for the current budget totals only $53 million, with $27 million in bonding from property taxes.

In past sessions when the economy was strong, the Legislature would appropriate tens of millions of dollars for new buildings, from prisons to museums, relying on property tax revenue growth to sell bonds to pay for them

But the ongoing recession in Nevada has eliminated the revenue as a significant funding source for at least the near term.

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Audio clip:

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp says he is still working on alternatives to funding the much-needed state construction projects:

091812Mohlenkamp :17 many as possible.”

 

Lawmakers Long On Ideas, But Public Education Funding Options Remain Elusive

By Sean Whaley | 5:31 am September 18th, 2012

RENO – Northern Nevada state lawmakers and candidates in the November general election identified a number of public education priorities at a forum here Monday, from ending social promotion to paying the best performing teachers more to making much-needed capital improvements to older Washoe County schools.

But those participating in the event held at Reno High School at the invitation of the nonpartisan group Parent Leaders for Education had few specifics about where funding to implement the ideas will come from when the Legislature convenes next February.

Sen. Greg Brower, left, Assemblyman Pat Hickey, and former Sen. Sheila Leslie, far right, participated in a candidate forum in Reno on Monday. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Those participating included Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and former Sen. Sheila Leslie, a Democrat challenging Brower for the new District 15 seat. Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who is not up for reelection, also participated, as did Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, who is running unopposed for another term in District 25.

The panel was rounded out with two Assembly Democrats running for new terms and their Republican opponents. David Bobzien faces Heidi Waterman in District 24 and Teresa Benitez-Thompson faces Tom Taber in District 27.

Several of the participants identified the need to find revenue to repair and renovate the Washoe County School District’s older schools as the top priority for the delegation next year.

Kieckhefer said those studying the issue are seeking about $15 million to $20 million annually in revenue that could be used to make repairs to more than half of the district’s schools that are more than 30 years old and are in need of major repairs.

Brower said Washoe County lawmakers are working toward a solution to repair the county’s schools and sell the proposal to Southern Nevada lawmakers who will ultimately have to support any funding option.

“It will be the best investment I think we can make in our schools in Washoe County for decades to come,” he said.

Leslie issued a note of caution to those attending the forum, saying past experience has shown that even bipartisan priorities, such as finding revenue to repair older schools, can be derailed in a legislative session.

“And I don’t want to sound like a cynic, but I’ve been through it several times,” Leslie said. “And so I think meetings like this where you put people on the spot, and I’m willing to be put on the spot and tell you that I will vote for just about any revenue source I can think of right now, to improve our schools. But you need to put the pressure on all of us to make sure that we find a solution and we don’t get to the end of the session and say oops, sorry, can’t do that.”

Brower said he agrees with Gov. Brian Sandoval, who announced earlier this year that he will propose to extend a package of taxes now set to sunset on June 30, 2013, into the next two-year budget to ensure that there are no further budget reductions for public schools or higher education.

But Leslie said the Legislature needs to do more than maintain the status quo and instead find a way to restore the $123 million cut from Washoe County schools over the past five years. Nevada ranks poorly in many national rankings, including ranking 50th in the number of children who attend preschool, she said.

“So obviously we can’t cut any more but what we really need to do is find a way to put that money back,” she said.

Hickey said he does not believe that raising taxes to find more revenue for education is likely to see any serious consideration at the next session. An option he favors is to look at shifting money that now goes to corrections and health and human services to public education.

Spending more on public education now so that money doesn’t have to be spent later on prisons is a better investment in the long term, Hickey said. Even so, several neighboring states, including Utah and Arizona, spend less per pupil but perform better than Nevada, he said.

“It’s wiser to educate than incarcerate,” Hickey said. “So we do need to spend more, we do need to spend wisely, but money is not the entire answer.”

Bobzien, who served as chairman of the Assembly Education Committee in 2011, said a number of major reforms were passed in a bipartisan show of support. But those reforms won’t turn Nevada’s schools around over the long term without adequate financial support, he said.

Waterman said the findings of the Sage Commission, established by former Gov. Jim Gibbons to find ways to make state government more efficient, need to be considered by lawmakers. Eliminating duplicative programs could help find money for public education, she said.

Benitez-Thompson said specific policy proposals are fine, but lawmakers need to look at the overall funding challenges facing public education. Ending social promotion from the third to the fourth grade is fine, but there are costs involved when children are held back, she said. Those children will need additional assistance so they can succeed, Benitez-Thompson said.

Taber said teachers need to be given more control over their classrooms to help their students achieve. Funding also needs to be allocated with a business-oriented approach to ensure it is spent wisely, he said.

“Business sense is important,” Taber said.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower says finding a revenue source to repair older Washoe schools will be a worthwhile investment:

091712Brower :24 decades to come.”

Former Sen. Sheila Leslie says the Legislature needs to restore funding cut over the past several years, not just avoid further reductions:

091712Leslie1 :18 that money back.”

 

 

Gov. Sandoval Will Seek Funding In 2013 For Creation Of Long-Term Student Performance Data System

By Sean Whaley | 3:53 pm September 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval will support some level of funding in his next budget to continue the work of implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS) to allow for the measurement of individual student performance over time.

Sandoval, in a Sept. 13 letter to Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, the chairwoman of Nevada’s P-16 Advisory Council, said he supports the group’s recommendations for moving forward with the measurement tool, which will help both to improve student achievement and provide for better teacher evaluations.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“I commend the council for developing a set of recommendations that is based on a high level of cross-agency collaboration and I thank them for their hours of research and dedication to our state’s children,” Sandoval said.  “The council’s work related to the development of Nevada’s SLDS is critical to education in our state. I am committed to providing leadership and support to this project, and my staff will continue to assist Senator Cegavske and the council on this important project.”

Additionally, Sandoval informed the council he will submit a budget appropriation bill during the 2013 legislative session that allocates funds to support the development of Nevada’s SLDS, though it is unclear precisely to what extent the state will be able to financially support the development of the state’s SLDS at this preliminary stage.

Sandoval noted in the letter, however, that, “the success of important education reforms hinge on the establishment of a SLDS, so you have my commitment that I will work hard to ensure the appropriate level of funding.”

Along with supporting the recommendations, Sandoval asked the P-16 Advisory Council to convene a data governance committee to establish a cross-agency data governance structure.

Sandoval also notified Cegavske that he has submitted a bill draft request for the 2013 legislative session that will propose the expansion of the P-16 Council to include representatives of, among others, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation as well as grant the council policy authority for the state’s SLDS.

In its report adopted in July, the council suggested that as much as $4 million in state funding would be needed to continue the implementation of the data system, which is intended to track individual student performance from preschool through entry into the workforce.

Sandoval issued an Executive Order on Oct. 7, 2011 asking the council to take the necessary steps to create the system to track students, following the lead of other states as part of an effort to reform education and improve student performance in Nevada.

The effort got a boost in June when the Nevada Department of Education was awarded a $4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to develop the SLDS. Nevada was one of 24 states to receive funding to support the design and implementation of its tracking system.

The three-year grant will create and assign a Unique State Personal Identifier so that students, teachers and those in the workforce can be followed from pre-school through grade 12, into post-secondary education and on into the workforce.

The grant will also be used to fund an in-depth technical needs assessment at the state Department of Education, the Nevada System of Higher Education and the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation to determine solutions for implementing the enhanced SLDS. The assessment is expected to be completed by June 2013.

But the P-16 Council, in its report, said that state funding will be needed to accomplish the solutions identified in the assessment. In addition, funding will be needed to incorporate early childhood data into the SLDS – a project that is not included within the grant.

Nevada Wins Grant Authority To Implement Health Insurance Exchange

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm September 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s health exchange, which will offer residents a one-stop shop to obtain medical insurance beginning Oct. 1, 2013, has received federal approval for grant funding to move forward with its implementation.

Jon Hager, executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, told the board overseeing the effort today that a $50 million grant commitment has been received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The money won’t actually come to the state until claims are submitted, he said.

Jon Hager.

Much of the funding will be used to pay for a portion of a $72 million contract between the state and Xerox State Healthcare to set up and operate the information technology system needed to implement the exchange.

In total, the state has received authority for the full amount sought, $74.8 million, to set up its exchange. Nevada is one of six states to receive a Level 2 grant award for its exchange, Hager said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he is supporting the development of a Nevada-based exchange so it can be tailored to fit the needs of Nevada residents. The alternative would be to have the federal government operate an exchange in the state.

The federal government is paying for more than 99 percent of the cost of implementing and operating the exchange through Dec. 31, 2014. After that, the state will have to find money to fund it.

The board voted in August to assess fees on participants to pay for the cost to operate the exchange. Sandoval has said the exchange should “stand on its own merits through user fees.”

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Audio clip:

Jon Hager says Nevada has now received all of its requested authority for federal grant funding to implement the health insurance exchange:

091312Hager :20 Two grant awards.”

 

Labor Department Rejects Proposed Nevada Workforce Investment Board Consolidation Plan

By Sean Whaley | 2:11 pm September 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The U.S. Department of Labor has rejected Nevada’s request for a waiver to consolidate its three workforce investment boards into one, due largely to opposition to the plan by the Southern Nevada panel.

Frank Woodbeck, director of the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation had proposed the plan to consolidate the three separate boards that oversee workforce development, which was expected to reduce administrative expenses by $5 million.

DETR Director Frank Woodbeck.

“The waiver request was submitted in July, and we received a response in August to our request and that request was denied,” he told the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board at its meeting today. “The denial was based on the fact that the members of the southern board were in opposition to the waiver and the consolidation.”

The Northern Nevada and state boards supported the consolidation effort.

But Woodbeck noted that the consolidation effort has produced some positive results, including a significant reduction in administrative expenses incurred by the southern Nevada board, called Workforce Connections, under the leadership of Executive Director Ardell Galbreth.

Galbreth, who took over initially as interim director in April, reduced several top six-figure salaries and the size of the agency’s staff by more than half.

Woodbeck said the effort at consolidation has improved communications between his agency and the two local boards.

“So the work at trying to do board consolidation, etc., has not gone for naught,” he said. “It has been successful to a great degree in that we have a much greater line of communication with the directors of the two local boards, and I think we’ll make progress as time goes on.”

Woodbeck, with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s support, had sought the consolidation in part because of excessive administrative costs identified in audits of Workforce Connections.

The most recent audit, performed by the state Division of Internal Audits and released in May, found that Workforce Connections spent nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of its programs than its northern counterpart.

More than $27 million in federal job training funds were awarded to the two local workforce development boards by the Board of Examiners in August, before the decision on the waiver had been made by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Southern Nevada board received more than $19 million in funding for the coming two years.

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Audio clips:

DETR Director Frank Woodbeck said the effort to consolidate the workforce boards has been rejected:

091312Woodbeck1 :15 and the consolidation.”

But Woodbeck says the effort has produced some positive results:

091312Woodbeck2 :20 time goes on.”

 

State Medical Association Supports Expansion Of Medicaid Eligibility Under Affordable Care Act

By Sean Whaley | 1:35 pm September 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada State Medical Association has announced it supports expanding Nevada’s Medicaid caseload as permitted under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The association’s board of directors met on Sept. 8 and adopted the policy statement, which was based on the information currently available about the expansion of the Medicaid program.

Photo by Debora Cartagena/CDC.

“We believe that this is necessary to assure that there is not a new class of uninsured Nevadans created by a gap in the PPACA coverage plan,” said the statement by the association, released Wednesday.

“Nevada physicians are concerned that this does not improve the current Medicaid program, which is significantly underfunded,” the statement said. “Current payment levels have made it increasingly difficult for physicians and hospitals to maintain their availability for Medicaid patients. This has become particularly true for children with disabling conditions or chronic illnesses and for women facing high-risk births.”

As a result, the association said it is urging Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature to “address the access to care needs of the patients who are, and will continue to be, covered by the current Medicaid program.”

The Nevada State Medical Association is Nevada’s oldest and largest physician advocacy organization.

The authorized Medicaid expansion is still under review by the Sandoval Administration. If recommended by Sandoval and approved by the Legislature in 2013, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014 for Nevadans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The potential caseload expected under such an expansion is still being analyzed.

Federal funding would pay for 100 percent of any Medicaid expansion for the first three calendar years beginning in 2014, with the state required to pick up a percentage of the cost beginning in 2017. The first year state cost is 5 percent, in 2018 the state cost is 6 percent, in 2019 the state cost is 7 percent, and in 2020, the state cost is 10 percent.

The expansion in Nevada would mostly cover childless adults who are not covered by the state program now.

Nevada is already moving forward with its Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, which will offer eligible residents the opportunity to purchase health insurance beginning on Oct. 1, 2013.

Meanwhile, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Nevada’s uninsured population continues to increase. While the rate nationally declined by 0.5 percent to 16 percent between 2008-09 and 2010-11, Nevada’s rate increased 2.7 percent in that same time period, to 22 percent.

State Board Settles Tax Dispute With Washoe County For $7.25 Million

By Sean Whaley | 5:16 pm September 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners today voted to settle a legal dispute with Washoe County over local tax revenue taken by the 2009 Legislature to balance the state budget.

The settlement provides an immediate payment of $1.25 million to the county, with another $6 million being allocated later for major road maintenance projects. As part of the agreement, the road projects will be moved up in the state’s funding priorities.

The original legal claim submitted in 2011 was for $21.4 million, but the county later revised its demand downward to about $17.9 million.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a member of the board, called it a good deal for the state since the projects to be paid for with state highway funds have already been approved for funding by the state Transportation Department. The agreement also makes it clear there is no admission by either side that there is fault or a legal liability for the settlement, he said.

The cash portion of the settlement equates to about seven cents on the dollar, Sandoval noted.

If the highway piece of the settlement is included, the deal provides about 40 percent of what the county had sought in its revised request, said state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp.

“It’s a good settlement and I think it’s important to recognize, as I said, that there was no admission of liability by either party,” Sandoval said after the meeting. “I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to be having litigation or disputes between governmental entities.”

Washoe County submitted the claim last year, citing a Nevada Supreme Court ruling in May 2011 that said the Nevada Legislature improperly took $62 million in 2010 from the Clark County Clean Water Coalition fund to balance the state budget. The county said the ruling applied to actions taken by lawmakers in 2009 as well.

Clark County has also submitted a claim based on the same legal decision, and is seeking $102.5 million in local taxes also taken by the 2009 Legislature. But the county in June opted to sue rather than continue with negotiations.

Even so, Sandoval said today that negotiations continue with the county to resolve the dispute, which occurred prior to his term as governor.

But the state has just recently received a new claim, from the city of Reno, based on the same Supreme Court ruling.

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger appeared before the board to briefly discuss the claim filed for $2 million. The settlement with Washoe County approved today did not provide any direct benefit to the city, he said.

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger.

Sandoval said the claim will be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office as has been done with the other requests.

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Audio clips:

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger says the city has also submitted a claim:

091112Clinger :24 aware of that.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the settlement is a good deal for the state:

091112Sandoval :28 between governmental entities.”

Southern Nevada Veterans Cemetery Receives $5 Million Grant To Expand

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:33 pm September 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced that the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery has received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to develop approximately 7.5 acres at the cemetery. Construction will include over 6,000 replacement crypts and 4,000 columbarium niches.

“We are incredibly grateful to Undersecretary (Steve) Muro and the National Cemetery Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs for continuing to invest in our state veteran memorial cemeteries,” Sandoval said. “Their continued support not only allows us to continue to serve Nevada’s veterans and their families with the highest level of dignity, honor, and respect, but it is also a testament to the remarkable care and service provided by our teams.”

Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

This is phase two of a three-phase expansion effort, and is in addition to the $3.5 million awarded to the cemetery last year which funded the construction of an administration building, roads, a committal shelter, cremains burial areas, landscaping and supporting infrastructure. Phase one of the project will be completed by the end of this year.

Secretary of State Tours Middle East for First-Hand View of Military, Overseas Voting Issues

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:17 pm September 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller   is traveling in the Middle East with U.S. Department of Defense officials this week to gain first-hand knowledge of military and overseas voting issues.

“These are the women and men who are fighting to ensure that the interests of the United States and democracy are protected around the world,” Miller said. “We owe them every possible effort to make the elections process accessible and secure for their participation. Secretaries of State have a responsibility to take a lead role in this effort, and I’m honored to be a part of that, and particularly honored to get to meet some of our troops in the field.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller, center, is on a trip to the Middle East this week.

Miller and fellow Secretaries of State first stopped in Kuwait to meet with U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller and U.S. Embassy staff, where they held extensive meetings to discuss voter outreach efforts for U.S. citizens living abroad and collaboration to resolve barriers to voting.

Military leadership briefed the secretaries on the U.S. Army Central voting assistance program in the Third Army war room. The program is in place to ensure successful absentee voting during the election year. The secretaries also met with assigned officers at military installations to resolve any outstanding issues. The stop included a tour and an extensive presentation at the U.S. Army Post Office to learn how military ballots are processed and transported.

Following Kuwait, the Secretaries of State toured Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar, where they received a briefing regarding the Combined Air Operations Center voting assistance program, met with the Qatar Embassy regarding voter outreach, lunched with constituents, and toured the military postal facilities. The Secretaries of State will travel to several other yet undisclosed locations in the Middle East.

As Nevada’s chief elections officer and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Miller is strong advocate of changes to the state’s military and overseas voting laws to ensure all ballots are received on time and counted in elections. Miller worked with the Nevada Department of Veteran Services and local elections officials during the 2009 legislative session to pass Assembly Bill 41, which allows Nevada voters overseas to register to vote; request and submit absentee ballots electronically; and accepted language from the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

The passage of the MOVE Act in 2009 placed greater protections for services members and other overseas citizens by requiring elections officials to send absentee ballots to voters who request them at least 45 days before the election.

In July, the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project named Nevada one of 15 All-Star states for taking significant efforts to promote and protect the voting rights of America’s military service members and their families.

Miller is joined by Secretaries of State from Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Michigan on the trip. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program is sponsoring the trip.

Romney Calls To Keep American Military Strong In 9-11 Anniversary Remarks In Reno

By Sean Whaley | 12:45 pm September 11th, 2012

RENO – GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told about 3,700 members of the National Guard Association of the United States here today that now is not the time to weaken the nation’s military.

On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Romney said the return of the country’s troops from Iraq and the impending return of troops from Afghanistan in 2014 cannot be used as an excuse to impose devastating cuts on the Defense Department.

“It is true that our Armed Forces have been stretched to the brink, and that’s all the more reason to repair and rebuild,” Romney said. “We can always find places to end waste but we cannot cancel program after program. We cannot jeopardize critical missions. And we cannot cut corners in the quality of the equipment and training we provide to our men and women in uniform.”

Mitt Romney speaks to the National Guard Association in Reno today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Romney was referring to impending military cuts that could come due as a result of a stop-gap deal reached in Congress earlier this year. The agreement will require significant cuts in both military and domestic spending if a budget reduction deal cannot be reached.

The military starting next year would see funding cuts of $492 billion over 10 years, with an equal size cut coming to domestic programs. Romney criticized President Obama for these cuts, called sequestration, in remarks to attendees of the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention here in Reno in July but did not levy a similar attack today.

He also defended the benefits received by veterans, especially given the high rate of suicide among the military.

“The unconscionable waits for mental health treatment need to be dramatically shortened, and the suicide rate among active duty soldiers and veterans must be treated like the emergency it is,” Romney said. “Veterans benefits are not a gift that is given, but a debt that is due.”

Romney, who spoke for about 16 minutes, also recalled where he was when the terrorist attacks occurred at the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon 11 years ago. Romney said he had planned to be at Battery Park in New York, but found himself instead in Washington, DC, to discuss security for the upcoming Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Romney said he left Washington and was driving toward Alexandria when he passed close by the Pentagon.

“I could smell burning fuel and concrete and steel,” he said. “It was a smell of war. Something I never imagined I would smell in America.”

Romney said the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks show why a strong military must be maintained.

“As you know too well, our world is a dangerous place, and the attack on our homeland and citizens on Sept. 11, 2001, reminds us that the mission of the guard is ever more critical, and ever more deserving of our support and honor,” he said.

Both Romney and President Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Reno-Sparks Convention Authority in July.

Obama has another political event set for tomorrow at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, having visited both Reno and Las Vegas at campaign events in August.

The visits, including a political rally held this past Friday in Sparks with GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, point out how important both parties view Nevada in the upcoming Nov. 6 general election.

The four-day association conference has brought Army and Air Guard officers, their spouses, defense officials and industry representatives to Reno from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

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Audio clips:

GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney says the country cannot afford to weaken its defense:

091112Romney1 :22 women in uniform.”

Romney says veterans benefits are not a gift but a debt that is due:

091112Romney2 :18 that is due.”

 

 

Nevada Gaming Win Exceeds $1 Billion In July, Up 17 Percent Statewide

By Sean Whaley | 2:01 pm September 10th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada casinos had an impressive month in July, taking in just over $1 billion in revenue from gamblers for a 17 percent gain over July 2011, the state Gaming Control Board reported today.

It was the second $1 billion month this calendar year, which has not occurred in Nevada since 2008, said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the state gaming agency.

“A $1 billion month is a number that we like to see, it’s a very strong number,” he said.

The Las Vegas Strip was up 27.5 percent with revenues totaling $597.5 million, according to the monthly gaming report.

The solid performance comes after two months of declines for the gaming industry statewide.

Baccarat, the card game played by high rollers on the Strip, was the major factor in the big win.

Photo by Roland Scheicher via Wikimedia Commons.

Baccarat win totaled $189.9 million, up 111.8 percent  or $100.2 million. The dramatic numbers are due in large part to the amount “held” or won from the card players, Lawton said. The hold was 16.03 percent versus 9.76 percent in July 2011. The normal hold is in the mid-12 percent range.

But the amount wagered by players was up as well, which is encouraging, he said. Baccarat volume was $1.2 billion, up $266 million, or 28.9 percent.

“We we’re pretty surprised,” Lawton said. “That’s the third largest baccarat win in state history.”

Slot play was up in July as well, by 8.6 percent, or $46.9 million, over July 2011, he said.

Nearly all Clark County markets were up in July, with downtown Las Vegas reporting a 16.4 percent gain, North Las Vegas reporting a 36.1 percent gain, and the Boulder Strip showing a 17.3 percent increase. Laughlin was down modestly by 0.5 percent.

The big win comes even as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported a slight decline in visitor volume in July, down 0.8 percent over July 2011 to 3.44 million.

“We want to see a nice blend of our baccarat business and our mass market business and right now, baccarat is carrying a little bit more load,” he said. “But there’s some easier comps in the back half of this year that we think, hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll see a better blend than we are right now.”

The rest of the state did not perform as well. Washoe County showed an 8.2 percent decline with $64.9 million in revenues. All of the Washoe markets reported declines in July.

South Lake Tahoe was also down, by 0.6 percent, but Lawton said the comparison for the market was tough this past July, with a 25 percent increase in July 2011 over July 2010. So the slight decline is actually a strong performance for the market, he said.

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Audio clips:

Gaming analyst Michael Lawton says a $1 billion month is a strong number:

091012Lawton1 :22 very strong number.”

Lawton says baccarat drove the numbers:

091012Lawton2 :19 up 14.1 percent.”

Lawton says the state would like to see a better balance between baccarat and the mass market:

091012Lawton3 :14 are right now.”

 

 

Ryan Tells Sparks Crowd Nation Needs New Leadership

By Sean Whaley | 2:55 pm September 7th, 2012

SPARKS – Fresh on the heels of another disappointing jobs report, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan held a brief rally here today, telling a crowd of 2,500 at a local small business that President Obama needs to be replaced to get the country back on track.

“Are we going to stick with four more years of the same, of the same path? No,” Ryan said at the campaign event held at Peterbilt Truck Parts and Equipment. “Are we going to have a country in debt, in doubt, in decline? Or are we going to do what we need to do to get people back to work, to fix the mess in Washington, and to get this country back on the right track.”

Paul Ryan fires up the crowd at a rally today in Sparks. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

It was Ryan’s first visit to Northern Nevada as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Romney is expected  back in Reno on Tuesday for a National Guard convention.

President Obama is slated to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans fight to win the battleground state in the Nov. 6 general election.

Ryan wasted no time in bringing up the jobs report released today by the U.S. Department of Labor that showed the country saw only 96,000 jobs created in August, well below the 125,000 gain expected by Wall Street. The unemployment rate declined to 8.1 percent in August from 8.3 percent in July but the drop was attributed to more people giving up looking for work.

“Today, for every person that got a job, nearly four people stopped looking for a job; they gave up,” he said. “We can’t keep doing this. Our economy needs to create just 150,000 jobs every month just to keep up with the growth of  our population.

“Friends, this is not an economic recovery; this is nowhere close to an economic recovery,” Ryan said. “We need a new president and we need a real economic recovery.”

Obama promised to keep unemployment below 8 percent with the stimulus package passed early on in his term, he said.

Instead, it’s been above 8 percent for 43 months and in Nevada it is 12 percent, Ryan said.

“It’s not working, and we have a plan to fix this,” he said.

In a statement from the White House on the report, Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said: “While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”

Ryan told the Sparks crowd that when Republicans win in November, the Romney-Ryan administration will move to immediately develop the country’s energy resources to create jobs, including building the Keystone pipeline, Ryan said.

The administration will also provide opportunities for those looking for work to learn new skills to find jobs, and will seek to increase manufacturing and agricultural production, he said.

The administration will also work to bring spending under control and bring an end to deficit spending, Ryan said.

“We have got to get this budget under control or else we will wind up just like Europe,” he said. “If you practice European economics you will get European results.”

Finally, the administration will work to help small businesses succeed and create jobs, Ryan said.

Romney will bring a history of successful business experience to the White House, he said.

If Nevadans support the Republican ticket, “we will turn this thing around,” Ryan said.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is locked in a battle with U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., for the senate seat, used Ryan’s visit to criticize Heller for supporting his budget plan, which includes a proposed change to the Medicare system for younger Americans.

Ryan’s plan would keep Medicare in place for people 55 or older but change it for others by privatizing it and relying on government subsidies.

“The Heller-Ryan-Romney plan essentially ends Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies, and under the plan, seniors’ premiums would increase by nearly $6,400 and they would pay more in prescription drug costs,” Berkley said in a statement.

Heller welcomed Ryan to Nevada in a statement issued by his campaign.

“Paul Ryan is the vice presidential pick who can lead this country in a substantive discussion about the most pressing issues of the day,” he said. “When many in Washington wanted to play politics and preserve their own political ambitions, Paul Ryan faced head-on the enormous challenge of bringing our nation’s fiscal house in order. This conversation is long overdue, and I look forward to more of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s leadership moving forward.”

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Audio clips:

Paul Ryan says the country needs new leadership to turn the economy around:

090712Ryan1 :22 the right track.”

Ryan says today’s jobs report shows there is no economic recovery under way:

090712Ryan2 :32 real economic recovery”

 

Online Voter Registration Expands To All Nevada Counties With 60 Days Until Election

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 8:52 am September 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – With 60 days until the general election and just over six weeks until early voting begins, the Secretary of State’s Office today announced that Douglas County has become the final county to offer online voter registration.

Nevada residents in all 17 counties can now register to vote and make changes to their current voter registration profile through www.registertovotenv.gov and nvsos.gov/votersearch, the online system on Secretary of State Ross Miller’s website.

Photo by Tom Arthur via Wikimedia Commons.

Residents have just over four weeks –  until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6 – to register by mail or online to vote in the November 6 general election. Nevadans can continue to register to vote at their county clerk’s office by appearing in person through Oct. 16.

The Secretary of State Elections Division and the Douglas County Clerk collaborated on the project that allows all voters to have electronic access to their information. To use the online system, citizens need to be at least 18 years old and have a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver’s license or DMV-issued identification card. The application process pulls the signature on file with the DMV and applies it to the voter’s registration record, which will then be used for identification for all future elections.

Registered voters can access their voting information at nvsos.gov/votersearch by entering their first and last names, date of birth, and driver’s license number or social security number. From there, they can update their address or change their party affiliation without completing a paper application and submitting it to the Douglas County Clerk.

The Secretary of State’s office launched a voter registration application on Facebook last week available at apps.facebook.com/nvsosnova.

Eligible voters who are presently registered in another Nevada county but living in Douglas County may now register with the online voter system, which is federally funded by the Help America Vote Act.

State Treasurer Announces Expansion Of College Savings Plan For Military Families

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:06 pm September 6th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State Treasurer Kate Marshall today announced that her office has joined with USAA to expand the ability of Nevada military families to save for college through the USAA 529 College Savings Plan.

“I am honored to partner with USAA in providing greater opportunities for members of our military forces who reside in Nevada to take advantage of the USAA Distinguished Valor Matching Grant Program,” Marshall said. “As the national college savings program administrator for the USAA 529 College Savings Plan program, it gives me great pride to expand our USAA Distinguished Valor Matching Grant program by providing up to $1,500 in college savings matching grant funding to any Nevada active duty military member with a household Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of less than $75,000 a year.”

Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall.

The USAA Distinguished Valor Matching Grant, introduced in January 2011, was originally for families of recent Purple Heart recipients living in Nevada. The program is now also available to all active military, active reservists, and Nevada National Guard members who meet the eligibility requirements.

“USAA continues to be a great partner in our lineup of college savings plans offered through the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office,” Marshall said.  “I am extremely grateful for their continuing efforts to make the dream of a college education more affordable for the families of Nevada’s military members.”

“The rising cost of education can have a significant impact on a family’s ability to save for the future,” said Dan McNamara, president of USAA Investments. “We are pleased to work with the state of Nevada to provide military members with the opportunity to save for one of the most significant costs they will face – the cost of higher education.”

The program is currently only available to Nevada residents who open a USAA 529 College Savings Plan account. Eligible participants can earn up to $300 per year in matching grant funding, with a lifetime maximum benefit of $1,500. There are two levels of eligibility:

  • Category A- Active Duty Military

o   Includes active military, active reservists, and Nevada National Guard members with a household AGI of less than $75,000.

o   Available for the children of active duty members who are under the age of 13.

  • Category B- Purple Heart recipients (Wounded Warriors & Fallen Soldiers)

o   Recipient of a Purple Heart in either Operation Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom (service beginning October 7, 2001 and ending August 31, 2010).

o   The designated beneficiary must be a child or the spouse of the Purple Heart recipient.

Additional USAADistinguished Valor Matching Grant Program benefits include: The Minimum Balance Fee ($15) and the State Maintenance Fee ($15) are waived for Nevada residents. The Upromiseservice program (www.upromise.com/welcome), which allows for a percentage of qualified purchases to be returned to a designated 529 College Savings Plan.

Grant applications for 2012 will be accepted through Dec. 15th. To apply or to obtain additional information, visit www.usaa.com/matchinggrant. USAA Distinguished Valor Matching Grant funding is available on a first come, first served basis, with a current funding limitation of $90,000 per year. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military and their families.

The Nevada College Savings Plan program, administered by the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office, currently has assets totaling more than $9 billion with over 500,000 account owners.

USAA’s 529 College Savings Plan is ranked No. 3 in the 1, 3, and 5-year performance categories as of June 30, 2012, by savingforcollege.com, an independently sponsored website dedicated to assisting parents and students with planning for college. For more information about the Nevada College Savings Plans program, go to www.NevadaTreasurer.gov and click on the College Savings Plan link.